Friday, 16 January 2015

This is hard, but it can be done. You can rewire your own brain.

How's your neuroplasticity? Mine's OK I think. This sort of stuff makes my head hurt, but it's one of the most important things a recovering addict can know. 


It's good that, isn't it. As I say, I have a struggle getting my brain around ideas about my brain - what's character, what's the mind, what is me, how does my tendency to cry every time I hear the Welsh national anthem relate to that lump of icky (it is icky, sorry) fat in my head...? There's no shame in that, far greater minds than me have struggled with this sort of stuff. 

But from what I do understand this is quite exciting stuff and quite new. This idea of neuroplasticity, the idea that our thoughts and actions can change the way the brain is wired.  I find this incredibly empowering. I've always assumed my mind/brain did what it chose, that I was the passive recipient of its ramblings.

You are not stuck with what you've got, you can change it. This is fantastic. This is what I'm trying to do right now. I'm trying to change some of my thought processes. I'm trying to change my routines and my over-reliance on routines. 

I've had a little success. In just a few days I've managed to banish the Bad Mantra from my morning thinking. I'm meditating and that's improving my concentration and focus. I'm trying to change my online behaviour (with the help of some blocking software) and that's working. 

It's hard though. You know that cliche about cliches only being cliches because they're true. Well, it's true is that. So is the cliche that "good things require effort". 

At the moment my brain still wants to recite the Bad Mantra every morning. I have to stop it. My brain still wants to react to stress by staring at Facebook for hours. My brain wants to make me feel uncomfortable every time I do something at a different time, or walk a different route. 

I am fighting it. And I am winning. Whether you need to know what's happening inside your icky fat lump to benefit from it is a moot point. 

If you'd like to know more, then this video is a good introduction. I need to go back and watch it again, particularly to find some actions to take away from it. 

However, this is a fine thing to take away from it: "It is clear that the intentional deployment of specific mental training strategies can induce plastic changes in the brain which endure and which can transform our cognitive and emotional styles."

All that folk knowledge, proverbial and cliched wisdom - "happy is as happy does" - is true, and proven. I can do something about my moods. I can do something about what I perceive as compulsions.